Mar. 12th, 2012 10:21 am
tree_and_leaf: Peter Davison in Five's cricket gear, leaning on wall with nose in book, looking a bit like Peter Wimsey. (Books)
That awkward - or, to be accurate, annoying - moment when you realise you've accidentally bought a human (I think; possibly she's part demon)/ angel romance.

Vampire romance is bad enough, but at least you can make that seem semi-plausible. Vampires may not reproduce sexually, but they inhabit bodies that used to be human, and also it makes sense for them to be attractive to humans, because being able to lure humans to their doom is necessary to their survival. Angels don't need to get humans to stick around to be eaten, and they're not actually corporeal, unless you believe Milton.

Indeed, angels as the Christian tradition describes them are not well suited to being protagonists of novels, even if you leave the romance out of it, because they are atemporal - there's a reason why the only author I can think of who more or less gets away with it is Milton, whose angels are not, strictly speaking, quite according to the tradition*. The book of Tobit has it both ways, by revealing at the end that Raphael was just simulating humanity for the purpose of helping Tobiah, which is unsatisfying from a literary point of view, but rescues the theology. Actually I think that if you want to write stories involving angels you can do it more easily in an SF context - Lewis makes a decent fist of it (there are things about the cosmic trilogy I find very problematic, but the Eldila are, I think, really quite good). Deep Space Nine's Prophets can just about be viewed as occupying more or less the same conceptual space and again, I think succeed pretty well. Like the Eldila, they're interesting because they're definitely not humans with wings pasted on, but a different kind of being altogether, and the writers are willing to try and face the challenge of writing about unincarnate, atemporal beings - even when we do get the big revelation about Sisko's origins, it's not the Tragic Doomed Angel-Human Romance, but something more unsettling and inhuman.

Of course, to be fair to the author of Daughter of Smoke and Bone, her angels are corporeal, mortal, and reproduce sexually (and have very messed up family structures). This makes a romance more plausible, I admit, though it does raise the very germane question, in what sense are these actually angels?**

You might, at this point, ask, "Why did you buy it?" The answer is (a) because I am a sucker for stories involving doors into other worlds***, and also because while I read the first chapter, I missed the one sentence prologue that would have told me what I was in for.

The sad part is that there are parts of the book I really like - the doors into other worlds are fun; her 'chimera'/ monsters (which turn out to be demons, alas) are quite charming and sinister at the same time, and I like the opening conceit of the heroine living a more or less normal art student existence, while also running dubious errands for the surprisingly likable monster who brought her up. There's also an interesting take on magic.

But I can't be bothered with angel romance; I'm not even sure if I want to finish reading it, although I rarely leave books unread, so I probably will. But unless I experience a sudden epiphanic change of heart, it will go straight to Oxfam.

* Though it's not as glaring a deviation as his Christology, which is flat-out heretical.

** They don't seem to be messengers of God, either, or at least the angelic hero hasn't got a scooby about what the purpose of his life is or why his people are locked in combat with 'the fallen'). Basically I think the problem is that the author wanted some way of doing paranormal Romeo and Juliet that didn't involve vampires vs werewolves, but really, angels?

*** CS LEWIS MADE ME DO IT!!!111!!!
tree_and_leaf: The Archdeacon from Rev., 3/4 profile, holding something, wearing tonsure collar. (archdeacon)
"It was held [by nineteenth century critics] that the simple preacher of love towards God and man could be discerned behind the Marcan, Lucan and Matthaean narratives. (Why anyone should have troubled to crucify the Christ of Liberal Protestantism has always been a mystery)."

William Temple, Readings in St. John's Gospel (1945: xxiv).
tree_and_leaf: Photo of spire of Freiburg Minster (14th C broached gothic) silhouetted against sunset. (Schönste Turm)
“Nor can any words come up to the inexpressible Good, this One, this Source of all unity, this supra-existent Being. Mind beyond mind, word beyond speech, it is gathered up by no discourse, by no intuition, by no name. It is and it is as no being is. Cause of all existence, and therefore itself transcending existence, it alone could give an authoritative account of what it really is.” (On the Divine Names, 1.1)

Cut for possibly unreasonable amounts of Greek theology. But it's so _beautiful_... )

And now I must go on to Maximus the Confessor - who is also wonderful.
tree_and_leaf: Cartoon of Pope Gregory and two slave children.  Caption flashes"Non Angli sed Angeli" and "Not angels but Anglicans." (Anglicans not angels)
Hugh Latimer (yes, Oxford Martyr, burnt-in-the-Martyr's-Memorial-while-trying-to-test-a-new-kind-of-candle Hugh Latimer) commended the practice of praying for the dead.
tree_and_leaf: Spire of St Pauls Lower Manhattan surrounded by taller buildings (church in the city)
A mixed bag of a week, really. I've been getting a fair bit of reading done for the coming term; at the moment I'm wrestling with Maximus the Confessor, who is hard going (particularly as I'm not used to Eastern theological vocabulary), and trying to make sense of his ideas about gender and how the difference of sex in humanity is transcended in Christ. Unfortunately, although he repeats it several times, he never expands on the point. I'm not sure whether he thinks that (a) femaleness is defective maleness and therefore overcome by incorporation of women into the body of Christ or (b) that maleness and femaleness are both accidents and therefore, although to have a sex of some kind is proper to being human, neither is more or less human* or (c) that Christ is in some sense both masculine and feminine, or (d) there's something semi-gnostic going on where masculinity is equated with spirit and femininity with flesh, or (e) he thinks, also gnostically, that distinctions of sex are fleshly and are transcended by the spiritual in salvation. (d) and (e) maybe overly suspicious readings,, but there are other places where Maximus sounds a bit gnostic and inclined to equate salvation with the transcendence of the flesh.

We didn't, in the end, go to court last Monday, as Trotskyite said the court would be full (looking at the court lists does not provide any information on what the charges are, but he has a number of co-defendants). We will probably go down on Wednesday or Thursday, when he's supposed to be on the stand. I tried googling the case number, which gave me a nasty moment when the first hit was Stormfront and the snippet Google provided - no, I'm not going to go on that website - was something about "gang of anti-fascist thugs beating up German..." but the date was last year, so presumably they recycle case numbers? Though Stormfront is a very biased source and while I can't begin to see Trotskyite physically assaulting tourists, I could just about believe him getting into a brawl with neo-Nazis. He's got enough sense not to start anything, but... Anyway, we shall see.

We walked to Ely; I must sort out some photos to post. It's a magnificent walk, although I was very stiff the next day. I need to do more exercise.

I have bought a bike. Hopefully we're going to test ride it this afternoon, if Lawyer can get the wheel back on his own...

I may have found suitable bridesmaid dresses in the John Lewis sale. As soon as I have confirmation of Lawyer's sister's rough size, I must go and see if they're still there.

Couldn't get Downton on the ITVplayer last night. Hopefully it will work this evening. Sometimes I wonder if I should get a tv licence, but I really don't watch enough to want to bother.

* This is what Aquinas thinks. Aquinas' understanding of gender/ sex can, I think, also accommodate trans/ intersex/ third gender, although it's not a concept which occurred to him, because although he takes the gender binary for granted he's not interested privileging masculinity.
tree_and_leaf: Anne Shirley sitting at desk, head in hands (essay crisis)
I was having great difficulty motivating myself to revise for my last exam (tomorrow) until I reminded myself that, actually, I do like theology, and in particular I like doctrine, and I get to read and engage with stuff I really like (or, in the case of Schleiermacher, like arguing with). I have babbled of my love for Aquinas before, but The Confessions is a great text too, and I have a good deal of fondness for Barth despite the fact that he was dead wrong to reject the analogia entis*)

Actually, I realised in the exam yesterday that despite my bitching about the OT - largely the result of being overwhelmed with Too Many Texts - I really love that too. I still don't like the method of approaching texts that Biblical Studies tends to default to, but writing about, say, Ezekiel is just fun. And remind me - or don't, perhaps - to tell you sometime why the Holiness Code (Lev 17-26) is not dull superstitious legalism but, despite some attitudes that we would rightly challenge today, a brilliant piece of theology and a new vision for the people of God. Whoever compiled it was a genius, seriously.

Incidentally, I recently found a clever fic about the Deuteronomist, the composition of the 'book of the law', and the Josian reform, which has clearly been written by someone who knows their Biblical scholarship. I do love the AO3...

* A pity, because I think his theological account of creation would be much more convincing if he could tie it up with revelation, which a proper understanding of the analogia entis allows; creation is a kind of revelation too.
tree_and_leaf: Spire of St Pauls Lower Manhattan surrounded by taller buildings (church in the city)
(I've always loved this poem; it seems appropriate today).

One foot in Eden still, I stand
And look across the other land.
The world's great day is growing late,
Yet strange these fields that we have planted
So long with crops of love and hate.
Time's handiworks by time are haunted,
And nothing now can separate
The corn and tares compactly grown.
The armorial weed in stillness bound
About the stalk; these are our own.
Evil and good stand thick around
In fields of charity and sin
Where we shall lead our harvest in.

Yet still from Eden springs the root
As clean as on the starting day.
Time takes the foliage and the fruit
And burns the archetypal leaf
To shapes of terror and of grief
Scattered along the winter way.
But famished field and blackened tree
Bear flowers in Eden never known.
Blossoms of grief and charity
Bloom in these darkened fields alone.
What had Eden ever to say
Of hope and faith and pity and love
Until was buried all its day
And memory found its treasure trove?
Strange blessings never in Paradise
Fall from these beclouded skies.
tree_and_leaf: Anne Shirley sitting at desk, head in hands (head in hands)
You know you've been doing too much theology when your reaction to this poem (as posted by [profile] angevin2 as part of her excellent Advent calendar) is to think, oh God, why is the Western church so crap at teaching the theology of the Trinity?

I think I've been doing too much theology. And I'm only a term in....
tree_and_leaf: Alan Rickman in role of Slope, wearing rochet, scarf, swept back hair, and hostile but smug expression (slope)
Well, I wrote my essay. It's a bit too long. (It's difficult to do 'John's understanding of the death of Jesus' in an undergrad essay, no? Though if I knew more about it, I could be more concise).

On another note: it's not the best defence of faith I've encountered, but the first half of this, in which Victoria Coren meets the Archbishop, and turns into a blithering idiot had me laughing out loud. Perhaps especially because the one time I did meet Rowan, the intelligent remark I wanted to make about his sermon evaporated. Though at least I managed to say something banal along the lines of 'thank you for the sermon, Father,', rather than blithering about watermelons.

Though it would have been funnier if I had. (Next time the situation arises, I shall try to blither about Doctor Who. At least I could expect Rowan to understand that...)
tree_and_leaf: Portrait of John Keble in profile, looking like a charming old gentleman with a sense of humour. (anglican)
Am having a very dull day reading about John and the Synoptics. Happily, I was cheered up by a friend sending me a link to that peerless publication, New Directions in Pooh studies.

Recommended for anyone who has had anything to do with OT scholarship in particular. Or, indeed, if you find this sort of thing amusing:

Eeyore's wisdom is philosophical or speculative wisdom; he

thought about things. Sometimes he thought sadly to himself Why?, and sometimes he thought Wherefore?, and sometimes he thought Inasmuch as which?, and sometimes he didn't quite know what he was thinking about (W 4.39-40).

This is arguably the best account that has ever been given of the nature of philosophical thought.
tree_and_leaf: Isolated tree in leaf, against blue sky. (Default)
Oh, Thomas, so awesome

There is a famous remark of Bonaventura, the Franciscan Master of the neighbouring school to Thomas’s in Paris [who] recalled the dream of St. Jerome who saw himself being whipped at the last judgement for having taken pleasure in reading Cicero. Bonaventura denounced the use of philosophy in theology by many, including the Friars Preacher, saying: “It is like mixing water in the pure wine of the Word of God.” Thomas […] replied […] “It’s not a case of mixing water in the wine, but of turning water into wine.”

M.D. Chenu. 2002. Aquinas and his Role in Theology. Collegeville: Michael Glazier, 28.
tree_and_leaf: Purple tinted black and white photo of moody man, caption Church Paramilitant (image from "Ultraviolet") (Church Paramilitant)
People have to make up their minds and cannot keep waiting for ever for a sign from heaven, for a solution to the difficulty to fall into their laps... Postponed or belated decisions can be more sinful than wrong decisions made in faith and love... To believe means to decide.

Dietrich Bonhoeffer in 1934, on the ecumenical movement, but it is more generally true, I think (it might also be taken as an epitaph on a number of basically decent contemporaries of Bonhoeffer, for instance).
tree_and_leaf: Isolated tree in leaf, against blue sky. (Default)
Off out for the ... well, for the afternoon and evening, rather than the day, by this stage. Taking notebook, because I keep being attacked by plot bunnies and forgetting them by the time I reach a computer/ paper.

Am still trying to think of suitable bits of novels which could be discussed in a parish reflection group - that is, passages that touch on questions of faith or theology in a creative way. Virtually everything I have thought of is from "geeky" source material (the only exception being Ashworth's discussion about creation and the problem of evil in Absolute Truths, and that's a very tenuous claim to the mainstream*). I can't decide whether this is because SF/ F is just plain better at dealing with big metaphysical questions, or whether it reveals that I don't read enough litfic. Probably both.

But much as I'd like to discuss reading Paladin of Souls from a Christian perspective, I think I'd have to choose my audience pretty carefully (i.e. do it on LJ/DW?); Harry Dresden meeting an archangel is probably pushing it as far as it will go.

Suggestions gratefully received.

* Or possibly some Sayers, but that's still genre fic, really.
tree_and_leaf: Brigadier Lethbridge-Stewart in uniform glengarry bonnet, Jamie in kilt, caption "Wha's like us?" (Scots Soldiers (Icon of patriotic prejud)
You know how Diana Gabaldon thinks fanfic is totally pornographic and totally evil, like writing rpf about you and someone's daughter and then sending them copies of it?

You know how she ALSO says that her character, Jamie (who suffers various nasty things in the course of the first book alone, including rape and having his hand nailed to a table, and also has lots of fairly pornographic sex) was a tribute to Jamie MacCrimmond† (or at least to his kilt)?

Well. It turns out that she sent a copy of Outlander to Frazer Hines. (Via metafandom).

I think my brain just broke.

Let us, instead, turn to an author who is A Good Thing, namely Jim Butcher. Not only has he got a new policy of giving permission for fanfic to be licensed under creative commons, it turns out that he wrote the Codex Alera books because someone bet him he couldn't write a novel based on the Lost Roman Legions and Pokemon. The flick through I gave Codex Alera didn't inspire me to read it, but weirdly, this makes it all better.

There is a possibility I may be leading a home group on God and fiction, and I am desperate to use the Dresden Files for the purpose (the scene with "The Lord of the Rings" and the airport cleaner who is more than he seems); though I suspect I may have to size the group up first...

Eta: [personal profile] damned_colonial points out that Butcher's policy does not make legal sense. On the other hand, the response of sources close to the author suggests that the point still stands re: Butcher being an all round Good Thing.

† I like Jamie. He is sweet and loyal, and while he may be a bit dim, I don't think he deserves any of that....
tree_and_leaf: Peter Davison in Five's cricket gear, leaning on wall with nose in book, looking a bit like Peter Wimsey. (Books)
Bishop Alan has a nice article on religious poetry. Clearly I need to read some Les Murray...
tree_and_leaf: Peter Davison in Five's cricket gear, leaning on wall with nose in book, looking a bit like Peter Wimsey. (Books)
Today is the feast of Catherine of Siena, so here is an extract from her writings:

We were enclosed,
O eternal Father,
within the garden of your breast.
You drew us out of your holy mind
like a flower
petaled with our soul's three powers,
and into each power
you put the whole plant,
so that they might bear fruit in your garden,
might come back to you
with the fruit you gave them.
And you would come back to the soul,
to fill her with your blessedness.
There the soul dwells --
like the fish in the sea
and the sea in the fish.

(Trans. Suzanne Noffke)
tree_and_leaf: Cartoon of Pope Gregory and two slave children.  Caption flashes"Non Angli sed Angeli" and "Not angels but Anglicans." (Anglicans not angels)
Theological quote of the week, from this week's lecture on the Trinity, wherein our lecturer went off on a minor rant about the inadequacy of most sermon illustrations of the Trinity ("actually they're mostly Modalism, which is Wicked"):

"What the doctrine of the Trinity is really saying is, forget about plugs. It is not about the bloody plugs!"
tree_and_leaf: Head shot of a weasel in evening light. (Our Lady of the Weasels)
It's the Feast of the Annunciation (Lady Day).* I was going to write something contemplative about the Incarnation, but instead I am trying to work out what to teach the confirmation class about the Eucharist - or, more to the point, how to teach the confirmation class about the Eucharist. it possibly doesn't help that Youth Canon is obsessed with using talking about Passover as a way into it, and while the Eucharist as a sort of re-invented Passover is certainly important aspect of the sacrament (yay typology), I don't think it's a good place to start.

In which I try to work out what I feel about Christian use of the Passover )
On another note entirely, Bishop Alan had a good post about Oscar Romero. Morbid types like me tend to think that, never mind dying peacefully in your sleep, that really is the best way to go... But it's good to be reminded that the church gets things right at times, and Romero is one of the people who really did get it right. I wish they'd canonise him.

* And, not at all coincidentally, the date Tolkien chose for the destruction of the Ring and the liberation of Middle Earth. Typology, you can haz it.
tree_and_leaf: Isolated tree in leaf, against blue sky. (Default)

You’re St. Justin Martyr!

You have a positive and hopeful attitude toward the world. You think that nature, history, and even the pagan philosophers were often guided by God in preparation for the Advent of the Christ. You find “seeds of the Word” in unexpected places. You’re patient and willing to explain the faith to unbelievers.

Find out which Church Father you are at The Way of the Fathers!


tree_and_leaf: Isolated tree in leaf, against blue sky. (Default)

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